By Currer Bell. In Three Volumes. London: Smith, Elder & Co., 1853. 16 pp Vol I ads dated March 1854. Original blind-stamped olive-brown cloth.
First Edition of Charlotte Brontë's last novel written (THE PROFESSOR was published later, posthumously, but had been her first novel written -- rejected by the publisher who accepted her sisters' WUTHERING HEIGHTS and AGNES GREY; she quickly came up with a replacement, JANE EYRE). In fact she used in VILLETTE some material from the rejected THE PROFESSOR, since she of course had no reason to believe that THE PROFESSOR would ever be published.
The city "Villette" in the tale is Brussels, where Charlotte had worked as a teacher, harboring a secret passion for the professor/director of the school -- just like VILLETTE's protagonist Lucy Deane. VILLETTE is often considered to be Charlotte Brontë's best novel, apart from JANE EYRE (in fact, both George Eliot and Virginia Woolf prized the novel above even JANE EYRE). The novel is a bleak one in many ways, despite the setting in a foreign city -- as loneliness is a major theme throughout. The year after VILLETTE was published, Charlotte married her father's curate; a year later, pregnant, she caught a chill on the moors and died of consumption, like her sisters before her.
This set has the ad catalogue dated March 1854; there was only one printing, but those copies were then bound up over the course of almost two years, with ad catalogues dated January 1853, February 1853, March 1854 (as here) or December 1854. Condition is very good-plus: there is some cracking of the delicate original pale-yellow endpapers, though all three volumes remain tight, and there is some wear along the rear joint of Vol I -- a common issue, since the flat-backed spines are a bit wider than the text blocks. But the volumes are complete and quite attractive on the shelf, with scarcely any of the usual problems with spine ends. In all, this is highly collectible condition for volumes still, 160+ years later, in their original state; all Brontë first editions in original cloth are becoming increasingly uncommon. Smith pp 134-142; Sadleir 349; Wolff 828 (these ads). Provenance: each front pastedown bears the "Præsto et persto" heraldic bookplate of John Carter Esq. Item #13864